Big SUV Brawl: 2015 Chevrolet Suburban vs 2014 Chevrolet Suburban

Full-size SUVs may no longer be in vogue, but there are still plenty of people who need to haul large amounts of stuff, or other people.

General Motors is betting on that. Its Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC full-size SUVs cover three quarters of the market, and the General treated them all to a sweeping redesigned for the 2015 model year.

While it will never have the prestige of an Escalade, the Chevy Suburban has anchored GM’s volume brand for decades. The Suburban name has been in continuous use since 1935, much longer than any other car in the GM lineup.

Plus, anyone who’s seen an action movie knows that Suburbans are the vehicles of choice for the FBI, CIA, and all manner of unsavory government and quasi-government espionage organizations.

Will the Bureau and the Agency place an order for a fleet of new 2015 Suburbans, or will it keep the ones it has?

Exterior design

It will certainly be harder to sneak around unnoticed in the snazzier-looking 2015 Suburban. Like the short-wheelbase Tahoe, the bigger Suburban received a thorough exterior redesign to differentiate it from the Silverado full-size pickup truck it’s based on.

Consequently, this is the first Suburban in recent memory where styling appears to be a priority. As with the Tahoe, highlights include a defining crease below the window line and stylized headlights that give the impression of streamlining.

There was nothing wrong with the 2014 Suburban’s styling, but with so many crossovers and SUVs emphasizing aesthetics, it’s clear that giving the 2015 model a little more visual flair was the right thing to do.

Interior design, comfort, and amenities

The 2015 Suburban’s interior has fully embraced the tech revolution that’s occurred since this mammoth SUV was last redesigned.

So the new model gets a redesigned center stack which doesn’t look pretty, but does make room for Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system, and there are up to 12 charging locations for smartphones and other devices scattered throughout the cabin.

The 2015 Suburban interior lacks the simplicity of the outgoing model’s, but it is better-designed to meet the expectations of today’s customers, who think of cars as large rolling receptacles for their smartphones.

Powertrain

Like the Tahoe, the 2015 Suburban gets a new 5.3-liter V8 from the Silverado. It produces 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Those are improvements of 35 hp and 48 lb-ft compared to the 5.3-liter V8 offered in the 2014 Suburban.

Fuel economy is also improved, but only by one to two mpg, depending on whether buyers choose rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

The rear-drive 2015 model gets 18 mpg combined (16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway); four-wheel drive brings a one-mpg penalty in the city and highway categories.

With a powerful and somewhat more efficient engine, the 2015 Suburban is the obvious winner in the powertrain category.

Performance

The Suburban isn’t exactly a performance vehicle, but for 2015 Chevy has at least tried to make managing its bulk a little easier.

The new model features electric power steering and optional Magnetic Ride Control suspension, which should give it a more refined feel.

However, none of this makes the 2015 Suburban feel any smaller from behind the wheel, so the new model is also equipped with a battery of electronic driver aids and sensors, including blind-spot assist, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert with automatic braking.

When its time to berth this beast, there’s also an available parking sensor system. All of these systems should make the 2015 Suburban driving experience a little less tense, making for a bit of an improvement over the 2014 model.

Price

The 2015 Chevrolet Suburban starts at $48,590 (including destination), for a base LS model with rear-wheel drive. The midlevel LT starts at $53,995, while the top LTZ starts at $62,695.

Adding four-wheel drive to any of the three trim levels costs $3,000.

That makes for a pbase-price difference of between $1,300 and $3,300, depending on the model. Still, with more available equipment and a (slightly) more fuel-efficient engine, the 2015 Suburban appears to be the better value.

Cool factor

The 2014 Chevrolet Suburban reaches back to a time (not too long ago) when SUVs were still more about utility than style. It’s still considered cool by some, but because of its no-nonsense attitude.

However, the novelty of driving a big truck on normal roads as an everyday vehicle wore off long ago, and now buyers want more from their full-size SUVs. They want genuine style, and a level of equipment that’s comparable to regular cars.

The 2015 Suburban delivers that, which is why it surpasses its more utilitarian predecessor when it comes to coolness.

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